Author : Lillian Cohen-Moore
“My Uncle had a theory.”
Jennifer’s low, soft twang cuts into my ability to sleep. I understand the nervous babble. She’s a first timer up here, and it’s hard to deal with. There isn’t a single window in our compartment, so I open my eyes to view her under the soft lighting of the night-cycle. I give her my best smile for the moment. Tired, but reassuring.
“He said that every time we think about ourselves as children, that it’s a form of time travel.”
I shift in my seat, blinking away sleep.
I want to warm to the subject, but I’ve played baby-sitter on the ride over to base to no longer be completely fazed by anything that comes out of these kids’ mouths. Sadly, I think I stopped caring about what they say along the way. Occupational hazard, I suppose.
“When we think about ourselves at different ages—children thinking of their teens, teens thinking of childhood, adults thinking of their youth, people in advanced years thinking of childhood—he said it was our way of sensing ourselves, further down the line. That it wasn’t a fantastical imagination that tells us we’re being watched, sometimes. But.. that we are being watched. “
“Yes! At different ages, in different eras—he felt our thoughts are always with us. That we may not physically time travel, but that .. a part of us does. Our consciousness, I guess, is what you’d call it. And it does so in its own unique, unsung way.”
I offer her another smile, this one briefer, warmer. She’s a funny kid. But everybody who gets assigned to the base is a little quirky. It’s my job to make them fit together, to catch problems before they start. She’s sentimental, and a dreamer. I don’t see it interfering overly with her job. We fly in silence for awhile, before she gives me a shy look. They all have it on the first flight over.
“Can we watch the approach, when they announce it? I mean, it’s my first time and I can watch it on my own, I mean—“
I wave a lazy hand at her. They all see me the same way. They all offer to leave the compartment on their own, to watch the approach. Every single one of them sees what they think is reluctance on my face.
“I won’t make you go try and be quiet behind Rick and Stan all by yourself. I’ll come with you. We tossed you in a tin can and we’ll batting you too and from for years to come. I might as well give you some company that’s free to talk.” I shrug. “ Anyways, it gives me a chance to stretch my legs.”
I unbuckle myself from my seat, and motion for her to follow suit. She’s young, unaware of how lithe she is. I keep her at a slower pace than she’s used to, limping along next to her.
We stand behind the pilots long before an approach would be announced, and I simply pat her on the shoulder when both of her shoulders convulse, tears starting to stream down her face.
“What would your Uncle say about this moment, Jennifer?”
I ask the question in a quiet undertone, as she swallows. “That I’ve been waiting for it my whole life—and that I’ve always been in it.”
I squeeze her shoulder, as we watch Earth filling the view of the front shuttle window.
I think she’ll do just fine.